Monday, 22 September 2014

Number 11: Storm Chase a Tornado

Partial Complete Attempt 12 May 2014 - 22 May 2014.
Tempest Tours: Tour 3 - Base Camp: Oklahoma City.

Heads up, this might be a long post.
 
Now with my love of the extremes of Mother Nature this was always going to be something I would do. Planning started well in advance, probably a good 18 months before the trip was actually set for, with looking at companies, watching flight prices and planning the entire trip to America. So flash forward and the trip was planned, you can read more of the general details here.

Fly to L.A., Fly to Vegas, Fly to Tucson and finally on to Oklahoma City. Finally I was there and ready. 


12 May 2014
So I headed to the base hotel from mine, and waited in the lobby and it wasn't long before you could start to tell who was also there for the same thing. With a few initial introductions done, we were all taken to a small conference room for official introductions and instructions. We met our tour director - William (Bill) Reid and drivers - Bob and Rook as well as all the other guests. 

With that we were into it, now the first few days were fairly quiet storm wise, however we still take in a number of sights, cities and towns such as:
  • Monument Rocks,
  • Joplin, MO - the site of the 2011 EF5 tornado, 
  • Walmart!
  • Gorgeous sunsets,
  • Awesome abandoned houses in the middle of nowhere, 
  • Cruising through the Rocky Mountains (complete with snow, which I didn't pack for),
  • Incredible scenery and beautiful country towns.
Monument Rocks


17 May 2014
Our first real day with a chance for some storms to pop, and we did get a little taste in eastern Colorado with a few good shots taken, but nothing too dramatic in the way of supercell storms. 



18 May 2014
Again a day where there was some slight chance of some cells developing, so early in the day we were playing the waiting game, visiting Lost Springs, Wyoming (Population: 7), some abandoned farm houses and general photography practise. 


Chilling reminder that people live with this threat
A cell really started to pop north of us, so that's where we went, but by the time we got their it was fading fast and the another one back south was going up, so back down we went only to catch the tail end. Although we did subsequently catch a nice night show.  

19 May 2014
Another day and now we were really getting into the thick of it. Lots of chances and lots of big beautiful storms that put on an impressive show in the Nebraska panhandle.








20 May 2014
This was the day with the second highest potential for storms for the entire trip, and it did not disappoint. Multiple supercells, impressive light shows, 2 inch hail and some great photo opportunities. The howl of the hail core as it approached was something I'll always remember. 





21 May 2014
This was the day, it started looking like a significant storm day 4-5 days in advance and the SPC (Storm prediction Center) had put up a small warning area showing 10% chance of tornadoes. The entire group was excited and eager to get going from our hotel in Ogallala, NE towards Denver/Fort Morgan, although it seemed like the entire chasing community had the same idea on the day.





Around 14:00 the SPC issued Mesoscale Discussion 640 advising of hail and tornado chances increased in the Denver metro area which aligned with out direction of travel a little two perfectly. The one thing you don't want during a chase is to be stuck in suburbia where the roads don't give you straight long paths to travel and instead give you short roads that curve around not giving you a lot of opportunities to chase.



We stopped for around 10-15 minutes in central Aurora, CO to watch what's called a "Tornadic Mesocyclone". When the tornado sirens started wailing, it became real and quite an eerie experience. It's a situation where it becomes real and you realise that people live here and have to live with this situation on a constant basis. Suddenly, instead of you crossing your fingers for a tornado to drop, you cross them and hope that if it does, it's not in the middle of suburbia.



We got a move on and headed out of the direct path of the storm to take in the size and scale of it, I must confess in my storm chasing experience I've never seen a storm with as much "Greenage" as I saw on this day.



News report from the day, confirming 6 tornadoes
22 May 2014
Our last real chase day, so we headed south through Colorado and into Texas where there was a slight chance of some type of activity. The landscape was much different through Texas, a lot more dry and dusty. The visibility was really low at a couple of points throughout this chase, although there was a pair of gustnadoes while exploring an old abandoned church and also a possible slight tornado (dust cloud leading up to a funnel cloud) however with visibility so low and dust everywhere it was difficult to confirm.



So all in all, I'm counting this as a partial complete as we didn't get that clearly identifiable tornado profile and that iconic shot. An incredible experience that I'll happily repeat to get the shot and to mark Number 11 as complete.

To Be Continued...



1 comments:

Oklahoma is one of the storm and flood prone areas in the United Kingdom, and I live in this part of the country, so I found it worthwhile to go through http://reddirtshelters.com/ and note the locations where I can find shelters at the time of need.

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